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The Salamander Room


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About the Author

Steve Johnson was born in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and earned a B.F.A. in illustration from the School of Associated Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. Steve's stunning illustrations have been seen in many magazines, but it was not until Knopf asked him to illustrate No Star Nights in 1989 that he began his career as a children's book illustrator. Since then, Steve and his wife Lou Fancher has collaborated on the illustrations and design on a number of notable children's books. They are currently among the most sought after of children's book artists. Steve and Lou fell in love with the My Many Colored Days manuscript at first sight, seeing in it an unusual opportunity to create something that is at once both childlike and sophisticated.

Steve and Lou currently reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


When Brian finds an orange salamander in the woods, his mother offers many familiar reasons not to keep it. ``Where will he sleep?'' she asks, and notes that the salamander ``will miss his friends in the forest.'' But Brian has a plan. If he needs food for the salamander, he'll bring insects to his room, and then, of course, he'll have to bring birds and bullfrogs to eat the insects. He'll put trees and ponds in his room and ``lift off the ceiling'' to give them room to grow. By book's end, it is Brian who is living in the salamander's room--a forest full of lush trees, where Brian sleeps in his bed under the shadowed night sky. Johnson's ( No Star Nights ) atmospheric illustrations are excellent in both design and execution; Mazer's text offers fitting tribute to a child's perseverance and imagination. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)

PreS-Gr 2-- Brian's determination to keep a salamander in his room is met with quizzical concern on the part of his mother--``Where will he sleep?. . . where will he play?'' Inquiries are answered with imaginative solutions that will be familiar to all those who have tried to convince a parent to let them have a pet. Johnson's lush, shadowy paintings depict each addition to the cumulative scenario as Brian's cozy bedroom is gradually transformed into a dark green forest that overflows the pages as the fantasy becomes more elaborate. From its rich green endpapers through its handsome typeface, this is a beautifully designed mood piece. The subtle implication that animals require responsible handling is positive, although readers caught up in the fantasy are never brought back to mundane reality. Johnson's salamander is realistically depicted, yet imbued with personality, whether wistfully peering through the bedroom window to see his forest friends or snuggled under leaves sleeping next to Brian. He will have young readers yearning for salamander rooms of their own. --Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

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